Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Richard, Meng and Bonhoeffer

As I have written before, I find the evidence for the benefits of meditation quite compelling.  There are many fine writers on the subject of meditation and one of them is the Chinese American writer Chade-Meng Tan.  He is a well-known employee of Google and the author of "Search Inside Yourself" and "Joy on Demand." When I saw that he had that second book out, I started reading it right away.  


Meng is a modern sort of person who appreciates evidence.  At one point, he cites Richie Davidson, a U. of Wisconsin researcher famous for doing brain scans on the Dalai Lama and his close associates.  One of them is Matthieu Ricard.  Meng likes to refer to Ricard as the world's happiest man and he has a reason for that phrase.  Davidson recorded extremely high happiness measurements from Ricard's brain while the man was meditating.  He was "measured off the charts" and he was meditating on loving-kindness and compassion at the time of the very high reading.  


So, Meng takes all that to mean that the highest level of happiness comes from thinking of good things for others and empathizing with their lives, pain, confusion and despair.  It is natural to have avoidance reactions to the pain and misfortune of others but seeking to step right into what I can tell about their lives instead of turning away can be helpful for them and me.


Purely coincidentally, I was reading a sermon delivered in the 1960's by Richard back when he was a campus pastor.  It is a discussion of writings and thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a famous pastor executed by the Nazis.  Bonhoeffer was a bold and incisive thinker.  He was aware that many parts of traditional Christian practice and narrative clash with modern knowledge and thinking and he directs the modern Christian toward love of others, support of others and understanding of the lives, confusions, hatreds and fears people have.


The mesh between my friend's sermon, Bonhoeffer's thought and Meng's writing is gripping me still. 

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